British Columbia

Bylaw officers can warn people who ignore COVID-19 health rules, but can't detain them

The B.C. government is also redeploying liquor, cannabis and gambling inspectors to help

The B.C. government is redeploying liquor, cannabis and gambling inspectors to help

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says that municipal bylaw officers are key in making sure people obey public health orders. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

As most British Columbians hunker down at home, a small few are still throwing parties, ignoring post-travel requirements to self-isolate, refusing to close non-essential businesses or disregarding physical distancing requirements.

Now the provincial health officer has issued new guidelines that clarify what bylaw officers and other compliance officers across B.C. can and can't do as they enforce the rules under the Public Health Act.

Bylaw enforcement officers can't detain or fine people under the act, but they can help public health officers by monitoring places that are closed because of a public health order, give warnings to individuals and businesses who are breaking the rules and report contraventions to health officials.

Any enforcement is up to the public health officer or local medical health officer.

Current public health orders prohibit gatherings of 50 people or more, and require that all international travellers returning to Canada self-isolate for 14 days, that restaurants provide takeout only or close, and that all "personal service establishments" such as barber shops, beauty salons, tattoo parlours and spas also close. 

If people have concerns, they are advised to contact their local government which can then dispatch bylaw officers.

"Local governments are key partners in ensuring the provincial health officer's orders are obeyed so people in our communities can stay healthy," said Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.

"It's important that communities, and those responsible for compliance, have clear and consistent guidelines to enforce the provincial health officer's orders so businesses can adapt their workplaces and help keep people safe."

In order to beef up compliance and enforcement measures, Farnworth also announced his department is redeploying compliance offers from other ministries, among them liquor and cannabis control inspectors, gambling enforcement officers, and community safety personnel.

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